Authentic Tzatziki

  

      
It is so easy to make proper Tzatziki and the taste is infinitely better than pre-made packaged ones you buy from a deli or supermarket.

This famous yogurt and cucumber dip is eaten as a accompaniment to most Greek meals. It will liven up a plate of vegetables, roasted or grilled meats and seafood. Or served simply as a dip with bread. 

I love it strong with garlic but it you prefer it more mellow reduce the garlic to one or two cloves. But it should pack a punch. The quality of yogurt will impact on the success. If you can’t get yogurt made in Greece, you will need to strain your yogurt for a few hours (through a muslin cloth) otherwise it could be runny. You don’t have to do this step and I’ve made it successfully without it, but it is recommended for an authentic result.

Here’s how. First gather your ingredients:

1 telegraph cucumber, 500g strained Greek yogurt, 3 (or 4) cloves garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt. 

  
2. Grate the cucumber with a coarse grater (skin still on) and sprinkle liberally with some salt. Leave to marinate for 10 mins -ideally in a sieve so that juice can drain away.

  
3. Meanwhile peel and grate the garlic using a fine microplane grater (make sure you remove the green garlic shoot in the centre to avoid garlic repeating on you later). In a bowl, add 3 tsp red wine vinegar, a sprinkle of salt and 2 tbsp olive oil. Stir and leave it sit while the cucumber is doing its thing.

  
4. Take handfuls of the cucumber and squeeze out all the juice and place into the garlic/oil mix. Give it a good stir then add the yogurt. Mix it up and taste. You will need to add more salt (maybe up to 1 tsp) and perhaps a little more oil or vinegar to get it just right. Keep tasting. Tzatziki must be seasoned well so don’t be afraid of salt.

  
5. Lastly refrigerate for 30mins to allow the flavours to develop and test again before serving to check again for seasoning.

6. Eat and enjoy … knowing  you will be safe from vampires. Will keep a few days in the fridge if you don’t eat it all.

Makes 500g, which is enough to feed a group of 10.

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Tomato Marmalade

 Tomato spoon sweet are whole candied tomatoes in sugar syrup and are a very traditional treat on the Greek island of Kos.  Taking it a step further – tomato jam, or marmalade as it is known, is also a local favourite and as strange as it may sound, it is a fantastic accompaniment to Greek yogurt.  So much so, that is has replaced our usual Greek honey with walnuts as our favourite topping.

Last trip to Greece we savoured and rationed the jar we brought home until, alas it was gone. So I took to the internet to try and find recipes to make it. After experimenting, including one failure along the way, I think I’ve come up with a pretty good rendition.

The marmalade is also excellent on toast, rusks etc. Try it topped with a little ricotta or my new favourite cheese – fresh Manouri (which is creamy and like a slightly salted firm ricotta).

A couple of points to consider … Firstly I prefer to use Roma tomatoes and secondly this must be made  when tomatoes are at their peak and most flavoursome. 

Don’t be tempted to grate the lemon rind, it tastes better when you have little tangible pieces as they candy and add a great flavour. Use a veggie peeler to take off thin slices of rind and then finely chop.

INGREDIENTS

1 kg Roma tomatoes 

500g castor sugar

Rind of one lemon cut into tiny dice (see above)

1 vanilla bean chopped in half (or 1 tsp vanilla paste) 

METHOD

1. Remove the skin from all the tomatoes. Do this by making a cross incision (with a knife) to tips of the tomatoes and pour over boiling water, leaving submerged for 20-30 seconds. Remove tomatoes from water and peel, the skin should slide off easily.

2. Cut tomatoes in half and squeeze to remove the seeds from 3/4 of the tomatoes and discard seeds. Leave the other quarter intact. Chop roughly all the tomatoes into 1.5 cm pieces. I prefer a chunky marmelade. For a more smoother consistiency cut them smaller (to 1 cm).

3. Place the tomatoes and the juice into a glass or ceramic dish. Pour over the sugar, add vanilla bean or paste) and stir well. Leave to mascerate for about 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally.

  

4. Place the tomato mix in a saucepan and add the chopped lemon rind. Bring to boil and simmer gently for around an hour. 

5. Meanwhile sterilise your jars which ever method you prefer. I do mine in the dishwasher. Also put some small saucers in the freezer to use to test the jam for readiness later.

6. At 45mins – test the marmalade . Take a saucer from the freezer and place a teaspoon of mixture in the centre.  After a thirty seconds run your finger through to see if it has thickened. Check again every 5mins until you can see the consistency has jellied and thickened – but is not solid.  Remove from heat.

  

7. Leave to cool slightly for around 15mins, then carefully spoon into jars.  Leave to cool completely in the jars before placing the lids on and sealing well. Will keep in the fridge for a year but trust me it won’t last long!

N.B. Don’t worry if it still looks like a lot of liquid when you test it … it will firm up when it cools.  The first time I made this, big rookie error … I removed some of the liquid and ended up with jars of sticky toffee! Which while tasted delicious but it nearly bent all our spoons trying to remove the stuff from the jar!!!

Makes around 500-600mls 

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Radicchio Salad with Apple

  
This is my current favourite salad and it is a fantastic accompaniment to barbecued meat and crispy roast potatoes. It is also as pretty as a picture!

Radicchio is a red leaf lettuce and is immensely popular with Italians, chargrilled and drizzled with balsamic vinegar.  Sometimes called Italian chicory, it can be hard to find in your local grocer or supermarket, and because of its bitterness, people may find it challenging on its own with just a simple dressing.

It is the bitterness, however, that makes this salad what it is – a perfect balance of flavours – sweet (from honey, currants), tangy (from aople, vinegars), salty (from salt),  bitter (from radicchio) and unami/savoury (from parmesan, nuts).

Dry roast the nuts before you start and have everything ready to go so that you can whip up the salad just before you need to serve it.  To dry roast, add the walnuts in a dry fry pan and roast for a couple of minutes, remove and then pop in the pine nuts until light brown – being careful not to burn.

Oh – and if pomegranates are in season,  you won’t go wrong if you scatter over some of its juicy red seeds for added zing.

Raddichio salad with pomegranate

INGREDIENTS
½ head of radicchio, cut into 1-1.5 cm ribbons
1 large handful of baby rocket
1 large handful of mixed lettuce (mesclun)
¼ cup walnuts, dry roasted roughly chopped
¼ cup pinenuts, dry roasted
¼ currants
1 small green apple, cut into matchsticks
1 tblspn roughly chopped dill
Parmesan, shaved, to serve
Balsamic vinegar, to serve

Dressing
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tblpsn red wine vinegar
a generous pinch of sea salt and a drizzle of honey, about half tsp

METHOD

1.  Mix the lettuce, apples, currants and nuts with the dressing and stir through – taste for seasoning.
2. Drizzle over some balsamic vinegar (or balsamic glaze).
3. Using potato peeler, shave some parmesan generously over the top of the salad and serve immediately.

Serves 2-4.

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Authentic Sangria

Sangria 4

My visit to Barcelona last year reacquainted me with good Sangria and better still, whilst I was there I learnt how to make it. Sangria, for the uninitiated, is a wine punch, that has been traditionally drunk in Spain and Portugual for hundreds of years.

This recipe is proper, authentic Sangria and one that a Spaniard would be happy to drink.

Now, if you ordering a jug of Sangria at a Spanish restaurant outside of Spain, (or in a touristy restaurant in Spain for that matter) it can be a bit hit and miss. I’m always usually disappointed because it very rarely tastes that amazing – because they don’t use the magic ingredient … Licor 43.  Instead, they will serve up some wine and soda perhaps with a splash of brandy and a bit of chopped fruit thrown in.

Licor 43 is a Spanish liqueur which is made of fruit, herbs, spices and vanilla. It is quite nice on its own with lots of ice, a slice of lemon and a splash of soda or lemonade. It mixes well and can be used in cocktails.  In Australia, Licor 43 used to be very hard to find, but now it is widely stocked and I’ve seen it many Duty Free shops in airports around the world (including Sydney).

Sangria made properly is a delightful, refreshing and flavoursome fruit punch – best served with loads of ice.  The wine itself doesn’t need to be expensive but it should be one that you would happily drink on its own and be full bodied – ideally from Spain, if we are being authentic!

I learnt this recipe, sitting in one of the best Tapas bars in Barcelona, watching the barman making glass, after glass, after glass for the many locals imbibing their most popular national beverage.

The beauty of this recipe is that this is a quantity for one glass, so you can whip up any time you might feel a refreshing cocktail coming on! Obviously you can easily multiply the quantity to make a jug.

The bar had premixed the fruit into the wine. Feel free to marinate the fruit in the wine for an hour or two if you are making a jug, but sometimes there is no time to macerate the fruit so you can easily omit this step. Thanks to Licor 43, it will still be fabulous.

INGREDIENTS

15ml Licor 43
15ml Cointreau
100ml red wine
100ml lemon flavoured soda like Fanta or Lift (not Sprite or 7Up)
1 slice of orange, chopped into 8 pieces
1 tblspn chopped apple, skin on

METHOD

1. Half fill a large wine glass with ice.
2. Pour of the alcohol and top with lemon soda and fruit. Stir.

Serves 1

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Roasted Cauliflower Salad

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This dish is on high rotation in our house as it ticks a number of boxes. I’ve been trying to cook two meat-free dinners per week and even though this is vegetarian, it is still substantial – which means we aren’t starving within an hour of eating it. It is also high in fiber and is a cinch to cook when I get home from work.  It is great as a side dish with fish or a BBQ.

Originally adapted from a Karen Martini recipe, it is a very forgiving recipe and therefore exact quantities aren’t really necessary – it will still work and taste great. You can substitute a number of ingredients depending what you have in your pantry/fridge, so I’ve written it that way.  That said, it is a cauliflower salad … so the only mandatory ingredient is therefore, the cauliflower!

INGREDIENTS
1 whole head of cauliflower
1 tsp cumin seeds
sea salt
drizzle of olive oil

1 handful nuts …
– eg almonds, pistachio, walnuts, pepitas or sunflower

½ cup grain …
    – eg quinoa (GF),  buckwheat (GF), freekah (low gluten), barley or farro

½ cup finely chopped green shallots …
or scallion, red onion

½ cup chopped herbs …
eg parsley, basil, mint, coriander, dill or a combination

½ cup dried fruit …
– eg currants, cranberries, cherries or fresh pomegranate seeds

½ cup diced feta …
     – or crumbled goat cheese

Dressing
juice ½ lemon
drizzle extra virgin olive oil
drizzle pomegranate molasses (optional)
a scattering of pepitas

METHOD

1.  Cut the cauliflower in slices about 1cm thick and then remove most of the thick stalk from the slices. Drizzle over some olive oil, season with salt and sprinkle over the cumin seeds.  Spread the cauliflower out on a baking tray lined with baking paper.  I prefer to spead over two trays as it cooks quicker and browns better.  Cook at 180C for around 30-40 mins until the cauliflower is nicely browned.

2. Meanwhile, cook the grain you are using as per the packet instructions.

3. Once the cauli is done, remove it from the oven, throw the nuts on the tray and cook until slightly roasted – watch them carefully, takes about 3-5 mins.  Allow both the nuts and cauliflower to cool slightly for a few minutes.

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4. In a bowl, add the rest of the ingredients.  Throw in the nuts and cauliflower, including all the little caramelised bits.   Squeeze over the lemon juice, drizzle the pomegranate molasses, some olive oil and mix through. Season with sea salt to taste.

5.  Serve in a bowl or platter and scatter the feta (or goat cheese) and pepita over the top.

Serves 2-3 as a meal,  or 4 as a side dish.

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Spaghetti Vongole

Spaghetti VongoleThis is an Italian classic and like many classic recipes, it relies on a simple combination that allows each of the ingredients to shine. Here, the vongole is combined with the holy trinity of olive oil, parsley and garlic.

Vongole is the Italian word for clam but there are various species of similar shelled molluscs that include cockles, periwinkles and pipis.

Clams feature in dishes throughout the world, famously in America where they come in a the form of clam chowder or clam bakes (yes, there really is such a thing, it is not just the title of an Elvis movie) and by the Chinese who served them with XO sauce. In Spain, they are mad for tinned razor clams, which are an elongated variety and you will find fresh clams (Almejas) peeking out of Paella, or served any number of ways including stewed with chorizo and tomato.

Locally, Pipis have been eaten throughout the millenia by the indigenous Australians as evidenced by the remains found in shell middens (which are places where shell debris was collected over time).  Bennalong Point, the site of the Sydney Opera House, was in fact originally used as a shell midden.

One of the fun things to do at the beach is to find your own clams, by digging and twisting your feet into the sand at the shoreline when the water rushes back out to sea – or do what I did … and buy them already cleaned of sandy grit and vacuumed packed from the supermarket!!!

Vongole packet

Make sure you use dried pasta, not fresh as fresh is too delicate for this recipe. It goes without saying if you are following a gluten-free diet to use gluten-free pasta, I used San Remo.  Like with mussels, discard any vongole that doesn’t open.

Please note: that this recipe is NOT paleo, low carb or low fat!

INGREDIENTS

250g dried (not fresh) spaghetti or linguine
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½-1 long red chilli, finely chopped (remove seeds if you can’t handle the heat)
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
1kg Vongole, vacuumed packed
2 tblspn extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup dry white wine, like Pinot Grigio
1/3 cup vongole juice, reserved from the vacuum pack
1/3 cup reserved pasta cooking water
sea salt
a knob of butter (20g) or another slosh of olive oil
chopped parsley to serve

METHOD

1. Firstly, put the water on for the pasta in a large pot. Meanwhile, as the water is heating, prep all the ingredients – including opening the seal of the vongole pack and draining out the juice.  Keep the vongole inside the pack until ready to put then in the pan.

2. Once the water is boiling, season the water well with table salt and once it returns to the boil, place the pasta in.

3. Once the pasta is in, heat olive oil into a large wide frypan with high sides or a casserole style saucepan.  Add the garlic, chilli and parsley and stir until aromatic – about 30 secs and then add the wine.  Let it all bubble away for one minute to burn off the alcohol in the wine, then add the reserved vongole juice and cook for another minute.

vongole cooking

4. Tip the vongole into the pan. Swirl the pan gently so as distribute the garlic sauce over and around the vongole. As they open, lightly sprinkle over some sea salt flakes and break up the knob of butter and scatter throughout the pan. Cover with lid and cook for a few minutes. Alternatively, you could use olive oil instead of butter, but I prefer the addition of butter.

5. Once pasta is just cooked to al-dente, strain, reserving 1/3 cup of the pasta water to add to the vongole.  Tip the drained pasta over the vongole, add reserved pasta water and shake the pan (or stir) so that everything meshes together and the sauce emulsifies. Cook for another minute with lid on. Check for seasoning and add more salt if needed.

6. Serve immediately and sprinkle with a little extra parsley.

Serves 2.  

Please note, I’ve been very generous with the sauce and the quantity of vongole, so if you would like to make this to serve 4, you can increase the pasta to 350g-500g, but keep the rest of the ingredients the same. You may need to add a little extra pasta cooking liquid or olive oil if it seems too dry.

 

 

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Mexican Salad

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It can be said that a recipe creates a synergy where the sum is much greater than the parts! Crispy chorizo, the sweet corn, the creamy avocado, the juicy tomato, the freshness from the coriander, the softness of the beans, the crunch from the onion and the spiciness from the chilli – I think the combination of ingredients in this dish creates a wonderful alchemy.

It is a perfect dish for a light dinner or substantial lunch.  A serving of corn chips or warmed tortilla makes an excellent accompaniment.

INGREDIENTS

2 corn cobs
2 gluten-free chorizo sausages, thinly sliced
1 avocado, chopped into chunky pieces
200g vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
½ small red onion, sliced
400g can black beans, rinsed and drained
3 tsp finely chopped pickled jalepeno chillis
1 tblspn finely chopped coriander leaves
2 tblspn olive oil
2-3 tsp sherry vinegar
sour cream (to serve)

METHOD

1. Cook the corn for about 8-10mins until tender.  Meanwhile, fry the chorizo in a small pan until cooked and the edges are crispy and caramelised.

2. Cut the cooked corn kernels off from the cob and place into a bowl, along with the beans, onion, avocado and tomato and a sprinkle of sea salt flakes.

3. Put the olive oil and vinegar into a small jar and shake to mix and stir through the salad.

4. Add the cooked chorizo and coriander to the bowl. Toss through and taste for seasoning.

5. Serve with sour cream and corn chips (or tortillas) on the side.

Serves 2-3 people

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